Transitions: the old, the new and the bridge in-between

2005

Marty Rodgers just got a big promotion. After 18 years of dedicated service, Eva Mortenson just got laid off. And last week, entrepreneur Ben Collins launched PetTags, his new vision of commercial splendor.

At first blush, these career events might not seem to have much in common. But peel back the individual drama and there's a common thread: each of these fictitious individuals is in the midst of change.

Happy or sad, forced or chosen, each professional will move through a similar pattern - an ending, a period of confusion and a new beginning –- for these dynamics are at the heart of every career, and indeed, every life transition.

As creatures who are happiest avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure, we tend to leap to the new beginning as quickly as possible. Yet, unless the first two stages are honored, no real new beginning is ever achieved.

Marty may have a new title or Ben a new business, but more likely than not, these changes are only external masks – no internal realignment has grabbed hold.

Endings always leave something or someone behind. Understanding what or who that is and saying a proper 'good-bye' is critical whether you chose the ending or not.

For Marty Rodgers, this might mean grieving for a lost sense of identity and control. Eva's grief may be for lost financial security and diminished self-worth. For Ben Collins, it might mean honoring a past that has brought him to his current fortune: thanking former colleagues for their support or creating an assimilation plan for his successor.

In fact, it is precisely by honoring endings at the feeling level, whether joyful or sorrowful, that this trio allows themselves to move forward with their integrity intact and to anticipate their future gains much more intensely.

Good-byes don't automatically catapult you into your new beginning

Now, here's the hard message: Despite such noble farewells, a slippery slope lies ahead for this trio. That's because 'good-byes' don't automatically catapult you into your new beginning. Between the old and the new is a period where nothing feels quite right. In his book Transitions, Making Sense of Life's Changes, William Bridges describes it as a period of emptiness and often, confusion. Marty's learning curve on the new job, for example, or Ben's search for just the right strategy to crack open his market.

This stage – of experimenting, of finding your way - may not feel ideal, but it does lend perspective on where you've come from and where you're going. What's important is to recognize it and to be able to put language around it, especially in those moments of greatest frustration.

It is new learning taking hold, undoing old paradigms and creating new ones, a bridge connecting the old with the new. When seen in this light, is easier to stick it out, knowing that it is part of a process, unavoidable and full of promise.

Intriguingly, it is only at the end of our transition process that we reach our new beginning. Backwards to all that is intuitive and comfortable - yet this new beginning is not an independent point of light, but the result of the process of honoring the old and readying oneself for the new.

Marty assumes a new level of leadership competence and asserts himself in fresh and innovative ways. Ben "gets" that his old paradigms – of work style, marketing and managing – are worn formulas that do not optimize success in his new world. And Eva uses her "opportunity" to find work that energizes her in ways she never thought possible.

Such beginnings are accessible to everyone, and the truth is, everyone has a little trouble with them. Like breaking in new shoes - take a few steps at a time, and know that a marvelous fit is just around the corner.

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About The Author

Patricia Soldati
Patricia Soldati

Patricia Soldati is a former President & COO of a national finance organization who re-invented her working life in 1998. As a career fulfillment specialist, she helps corporate professionals enhance their working lives – both within the organization – and by leaving it behind.

Older Comments

Good article --

sharon sellet usa

At long last - some sensible 'lay speak' about an issue most of us are or have faced. The combination of Patricia Soldati's solid credentials and personal work history seem to position her perfectly as one to creatively guide a personal transition. Thank you, thank you for offering her as a viable contact.

Joanne Sheffield Redmond, WA

Work today means that we are evermore living in and for the future. The pace of everything from emails to expectations of delivery just keeps getting faster and faster. It's tough to take time out and to reflect across the board whether it's moving jobs or just fully absorbing a comment a colleage made at work. Can we keep up the pace of change or will it all go pop one day?

Sarah Beale London

Patricia has wonderful insight and a great way of communicating what is really at the heart of personal and professional transition. Her fine-tuned listening skills, analytical abilities and seasoned perspective enable her to coach individuals through a miriad of life changes. Having personally seen the results of her work in the corporate world as well as in her current career, I recommend her competence. Visit her website to learn more.

Anne DeShields Cape Cod, Massachusetts

A thoughtful aricle that offers a practical way of looking at transitions.... we've all been there and know others in transition as well. I appreciate the framework Patricia presents.

David Sapper Baltimore